Fast start lifts Wilde Lake girls soccer to 5-0 shutout of Centennial
By Kyle McFadden
Howard County Times sports|
Sep 20, 2017 | 12:10 AM
|Howard County, MD
Every player and coach from the Wilde Lake girls soccer team scurried back to the sideline, positioning themselves for a cheerful photo op as team photographers clicked away. Amid some of the toughest times the Wilde Lake community has ever endured, and seconds removed from a 5-0 romp over guest Centennial, the moment had to be captured.
Not only did the Wildecats dominate one of Howard County's best – the reigning 3A South region champions – to improve to an unblemished 5-0, but they put on a spectacle in their first game since the homicide of Laura Wallen, a teacher at the school who was found dead last Wednesday in Damascus.
Wallen, 31, was kindhearted. She taught social studies at Wilde Lake High School and played many roles in the community. When the Wildecats' girls soccer coach Megan Shea heard the news, exemplifying her spirit immediately became a priority.
"What we tried to focus on when we heard the news is being an embodiment of her personality," said Shea, who came to Wilde Lake the same time Wallen did four years ago. "Being that happy person. And that's another thing: We talk about being focused, but our second "F" is having fun. That's something she always had. She was always bright and sunny.
"She loved Wilde Lake. I think she's been to every activity there ever was. … She definitely supported us."
Though motivation comes abundantly, Kaitlyn Vong admitted the Wildecats played with an extra incentive on Tuesday night. The sophomore forward noticed a room full of focused girls before they hit the field.
"We're trying to win for her. We're trying to win for Wilde Lake," said Vong, who scored the game's opening two goals midway through the first half.
Centennial, which dropped its first game of the fall, greeted Wilde Lake before the contest, offering condolences and commemorative yellow-and-green hair ribbons.
"That was really nice," Shea said. "We've gotten a lot of support from the community, other schools. … We're really grateful for the support."
Vong, who sparked the charge, scored both of her goals with some kind of gritty deflection at the doorstep. During the first goal, Vong one-timed a perfect cross pass from freshman Jillian Ingram and sent it past Eagles goalkeeper Ashley Bilger (four saves). The second spurred from a corner kick into traffic at the front of the net.
It didn't take long for the Wildecats to score again. Three minutes after Vong gave Wilde Lake a 2-0 lead, Lily Dunbar weaved her way into a cluster in front of the net and capitalized on another corner kick to push the lead to three.
Julianna Bonner (one goal, one assist) kept the onslaught going after Angie Gerlis delivered a well-timed pass into the slot, finding the back of the net for a 4-0 Wilde Lake lead. Nine minutes into the second half, Dunbar put the game out of reach with a nifty sequence of moves.
Wilde Lake outshot Centennial, 17-11, and its outshot the Eagles 13-3 in the first half.
Goalkeeper Jenna Hutchison, who made her season debut after undergoing a five-week treatment for suprapatellar bursitis, recorded two saves.
Wilde Lake, which has 19 underclassmen, hopes to keep things churning with a home game against Reservoir on Monday.
"If we stay focused, we have a lot of potential to do well," Shea said. "We have a lot of girls who aren't afraid to take on people and to be confident. That's what we talk about before games: confidence."
As for Centennial, energy lacked from the onset. Too much time spent in the defensive zone vanished any opportunity at creating scoring chances.
"We were very flat in the beginning; very flat. Our first two goals were extremely weak. If you give up goals like that, you deserve to get your butt whooped," Centennial coach Steven Baxter said. "Those were weak goals we gave up. … In the second half, it's all about playing with pride; showing that you deserve to be a starter. If you're starting, that's a privilege that you've earned and you've got to go keep it.
"The girls were much better in the second half. And I'm not talking because they sat a few key girls late. I'm talking about the first 15 minutes of that second half; we did really well. That's what I was looking for. … We can't afford to be flat. This county is too strong; there's too many good teams. You can't be flat. It's just not going to happen."